Series Preview: Phillies hit the road, take on D-backs

Philadelphia Phillies Zack Wheeler
TAMPA, FL – MARCH 07: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) delivers a pitch during the MLB Spring Training game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees on March 7, 2021 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

The Phillies are on the road again for their last West Coast trip of the season after dropping the final two series against the Dodgers and Reds at home. The road trip kicks off with a three-game tilt against the team with the worst record in baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Although the Diamondbacks are coming off a series where they took three of four from the San Diego Padres, don’t let that fool you. The D-backs are 38-81 on the season and outside of Madison Bumgarner and Ketel Marte, they don’t have many names on the team you would even recognize unless you play fantasy (or haven’t blocked out the collapse of 2018 that included the Phillies trading for Asdrúbal Cabrera as I have… shudder). The Phillies are looking to bounce back after going 2-4 in what many considered the biggest series’ of the season to this point after winning eight straight.

With Philadelphia’s offense sputtering the last week and Arizona’s offense struggling all season long, let’s focus on the pitching.

Who toes the rubber for ARI?

Arizona has a mess in their rotation at the moment. On their projected starters for this series are a bunch of TBDs. What we do know about Arizona’s pitchers is that the Phillies will not be seeing former Marlin Zac Gallen or the Diamondbacks most consistent starter in Merrill Kelly (24 GS, 4.30 ERA) who was added to the COVID IL this past weekend. The Phillies may face former draft pick and reigning NL pitcher of the week Tyler Gilbert, who is riding high after throwing a no-hitter in his first career start.

He joins some of the greatest old-timey names in baseball history to pitch a no-no in their first start: Bobo Holloman (1953), Bumpus Jones (1892), and Theodore Breitenstein (1891). That may seem intimidating with the Phillies’ recent offensive struggles, but The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh explained why it was the most unlikely of no-hitters. The Phillies are likely to face off against Bumgarner, who has a 2.08 ERA since the All-star break. He may no longer be the man who lead San Fran to three World Series titles and helped rip Phillies’ fans hearts out in the 2010 NLCS, but with Rhys Hoskins still on the IL and his recent success, Bumgarner has a chance to put a hiccup in the Phillies hopes for this series.

Pitch, Pitch, Pitch-adelphia

Philadelphia has some solid pitching lined up for this series, with trade deadline addition Kyle Gibson, closer-turned-starter Ranger Suárez, and the New Ace In Town Zack Wheeler lined up to take on a D-backs offense that has not been great, ranking 23rd with a .235 average and 28th with a .379 slugging %. This is the first time the Phils have faced off with the Snakes this season, but each expected starter has some history against Arizona. Gibson has pitched against Arizona twice in his career with great numbers, although neither start was in Arizona. His most recent appearance against the Snakes came last season while he was with Texas. He went 5 IP, giving up 3 runs, 0 earned. His ERA against Arizona is 0.75 across those two starts. Suarez is scheduled to take the mound on Wednesday. His history against the D-backs comes as a relief pitcher in 2019. His numbers this year are great and have been even better since moving into the rotation. Opponents are slashing a dismal .094/.237/.094 against Ranger in 10 IP since becoming a starter this season. Ranger is also becoming a team favorite:

The big thing to look for in this game for Phillies fans will be how long into the game will Suarez go as the team continues to stretch him out. The Cy Young leadin’, Wheelin’ and dealin,’ NAIT-ure boy Zack Wheeler closes out the series for the Phillies on Thursday. He has faced the Diamondbacks seven times in his career, five times at Chase Field. Wheeler is unbeaten in 5 starts with a 2.84 ERA and a 5.00 K/BB ratio when pitching in Arizona. Expect Wheeler to bounce back from his last start, where he gave up 4 earned runs against the Reds and gave up multiple HRs for only the second time this season, and continue his dominant ways.

The Phillies may have struggled to close out their last homestand, but look for them to use this series against the lowly Diamondbacks to catapult themselves back into the NL East lead.

Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire